For many travelers Santa Barbara, California is the goldilocks of destinations: it’s large enough to have many creative small businesses yet small enough to have charm.
And, for food lovers, it has world-class wineries, top-notch restaurants, and some of the best farmers markets in the state like the Downtown Santa Barbara Famers Market.
Visit The Downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market
Of the many things to do in Santa Barbara (and there are lots!), we highly recommend (nay, insist!) that a visit to the weekly farmers market is on the list.
There are many markets to choose from, but we’re going to hone in on the Downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market because it’s a vibrant market that gives you a chance to meet the local farms.
When Is The Market?
Curious as to the Santa Barbara farmers market schedule? Well, you can find a Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market 6 days a week across the county in spots like Carpinteria, Old Town, Goleta, Montecito, and Solvang.
Here we’re diving into the Downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market, which is held on Saturdays from 8 AM to 1 PM at 119 East Cota Street.
How Old Are The Santa Barbara Farmers Markets?
Running since 1982 and known as the Saturday Morning Farmers Market, the Downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market is the largest in terms of the number of vendors and the number of shoppers.
Though the market is 40 years old (and counting!) it wasn’t the first. That honor belongs to the farmers’ market held at the Santa Barbara Mission.
It began in 1979, making it one of the first 20 farmers’ markets in the State of California. Some of the original participants can still be found selling their produce at markets today.
The Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market Association is a non-profit that oversees the six weekly markets and works to connect California Farmers with the local community.
In addition to promoting local farms, a few other major initiatives of the SBCFMA is to reduce food waste and safeguard the environment.
What Is Sold At The Santa Barbara Farmers Market?
If you’ve read “What Is Grown In California,” then you probably have a good idea of what you’ll see at the Santa Barbara farmers markets.
The greater region of California where Santa Barbara is located grows a variety of produce, but they’re best known for strawberries, cut flowers, orchids, avocados, broccoli, and leaf lettuce.
At the Downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market the focus is on fresh produce, meaning you won’t find jewelry, crafts, or any non-edible goods. But, in addition to local farmers selling seasonal produce, the markets also carry products like dairy, meat, poultry, wine, and even some seafood.
What Is Market Match?
Of the many programs the Santa Barbara farmers markets have, one that you must know about is Market Match. This is a statewide food incentive program that matches customers’ CalFresh assistance benefits at farmers’ markets and other farm-direct sites.
This means the market vendors accept CalFresh EBT, which can be used to purchase tokens at the Market Information Booth. Then, up to the first $10 of every purchase using an EBT card per market day gets the shopper up to an additional $10 in free Market Match tokens to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables.
Farms At Downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market
Okay, now that you know all about the Downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market and why you must visit, here are a few local farms to seek out:
While produce is grown in almost every county of California, the vast majority comes from the San Joaquin Valley as is the case with Avila and Sons Farms. Owned by David and Naede Avila, the family has 40 acres that they farm organically in the Central Valley and it is largely dedicated to dried fruit and nuts.
While their nuts and dried fruit are tops, we’re partial to their nut butters, which range from classic to creative flavors like Chile Lemon Almond Spread (amazing as a twist on satay sauce!) or the Maple Almond Butter, which we regularly have for dessert. You can find Avila and Sons Farms and many Southern California markets including the Downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market.
This is a family-run farm that has a few different parts. In addition to vineyard management and animal husbandry, they grow organic produce, fruit, and flowers that they bring to the Downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market.
Though they don’t have a huge amount that they grow, it is very diverse and of high quality. They’re committed to sustainable farming applications including no-till practices, the use of cover crops, and animal integration.
Milliken Family Farms
Located in the heart of Santa Barbara County, Milliken Family Farms has been family owned and operated for 5 generations. They focus on natural sustainable farming methods meaning they use no sprays or chemicals.
They grow a variety of vegetables like red cabbage, fennel, and snap peas, but they are well known for their orange carrots, which have bright orange skin and flesh. Find an assortment of this and more at the Downtown Santa Barbara Farmers Market.
In operation and family-owned since 1837, Rancho San Julian is one of the oldest cattle ranches in California. The ranch is currently run by Elizabeth Pruitt who oversees selling her family’s grass-fed beef (which is free range and antibiotic and hormone free) directly to chefs and consumers at regional farmer markets.
Another 5th generation farmer, Chris Cadwell started Tutti Frutti Farms in 1988 and now his son Orin and daughters Olive and Clara also work on the farm.
They grow certified organic produce in the Santa Rita Hills and are known for heirloom and lesser-known varieties like Purple Cherokee tomatoes, torpedo onions, “Cocozelle” Italian striped zucchini, “Magda” summer squash, “Gold Bar” yellow zucchini and “Rondini” summer squash.
Have Us Plan Your California Trip
Looking to travel to Santa Barbara? Whether you’re looking for custom travel planning or a small group trip, the Salt & Wind team is here to help. Contact us today to learn more.
Photo Credit: Shops at Outdoor Market By Jayme Burrow Stacked eggplant and vegetable phot by Blake Bronstad, Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara; Artichoke photo by Jay Sinclair, Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara